This album also came quickly. I guess that is an advantage of not being saddled with a job where you do someone else’s work for the least they can pay you. If you are lucky they treat you well. If not then they blatantly lie, cheat and then make everything your fault. Needless to say it was better to write music; at least I get satisfaction at the end of the day.
This album I wanted to be as melodic as I could make it. I also knew I wanted it to be about the sea. Part of me was being pulled to write using samples. It seemed to me that electronic music is more about samples these days then actual synthesis. Orchestral samples are very in-vogue. Usually samples leave me cold but it seemed time to try again. I wrote “Sailing Heavy Seas” intending it to be transferred to orchestral samples. I did this (bonus track with album purchase) but while the result was nice I (and some others) felt it lacked some of my usual magic.
I wondered if that wasn’t a result of having written with synths so the next piece I set out to write using the orchestral samples. At first I wasn’t sure how to start as the sounds were so pre-set. I cracked it though and out came “The Pirate’s Ball” which was so clearly a somewhat ridiculous fantasy – like a comedy ballet piece. I liked the piece and could see that it was different for me. That was a win. Having sounds I couldn’t alter as they had to sound like an orchestra made me focus all my effort on the notes which was also a win as it pushed my composition along a bit.
For the next track I wanted to try more of the same but I couldn’t hear the sounds in my head with samples so I did some mix-n-match. That delivered me “Song of the Tramp Steamer – Part 1”. I settled with myself that I could use either pure synth or orchestral samples so I continued using whatever I wanted. Where an orchestral sound wasn’t working the way I wanted I used synths. In some cases I designed the synths to sound very close to orchestral tones, in others to be as wild and imaginative as I could.
“Song of the Tramp Steamer – Part 2” was the last piece written and that is when I realized the real album theme was about transformation. This was unconscious. I wanted pieces to reflect a sea theme but no deeper story than that. With Tramp Steamer I recalled a book I read as a kid called “Sea Change” – I think it was the 1948 novel by Richard Armstrong – that had this feel in it. That came out in many tracks (hence the choice of cover photo). This is how the working title gained an “s” and a tagline.
The sea transforms everything it touches. Some changes are subtle, a few grains of sand here and there; others are massive. The changes that occur in us as we travel across the sea can’t always be seen and won’t necessarily be recognized at the time but they happen all the same.
Turn off the light and come on a journey.
Cover photo from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce North Pacific storm waves as seen from the NOAA M/V Noble Star, Winter 1989
Sea Changes Bonus Synth
Here is a little synth patch compatible with Reason 5 and up.